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Did you know that half of those 65 and older use five or more prescription and over-the-counter medications per week, and that 12 percent use 10 or more? Or that even though people 65 and older represent about 12 percent of the population, they receive more than 25 percent of all prescribed drugs in the United States? 1
Most important, did you know that medication errors are among the most common medical mistakes in our system, harming at least 1.5 million people every year, with hospitalized patients subject to at least one medication error a day? 2 In fact, about one out of every three older people overall experience a serious adverse effect related to medications, including a bone-breaking fall, disorientation, inability to urinate, even heart failure. Plus, about a third of hospital admissions in this age group are related to prescribed medications. 3
The most common cause of these events? Inappropriate medication prescribing.
That’s why it’s so important that you take control of your medications, questioning your doctor about every prescription you’re given, watching for side effects, and insisting on changes or other treatment options if the medication isn’t safe or effective.
You can learn if your medication is appropriate for someone your age by checking out the Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. There, you’ll find a list of 34 medications and drug classes for 14 health problems you probably shouldn’t take if you’re 65 or older.
They include certain antihistamines, anti-Parkinson drugs, antispasmodics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen), antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and muscle relaxers.
These “potentially inappropriate” drugs may have more side effects or a higher risk of side effects in older people, or may not work as well. In most instances, safer, more effective options are available. As the Beers list notes: “Clinicians should consider avoiding these drugs.”
The sad fact is that most doctors are either not aware of the Beers list or don’t check it before scribbling a prescription . So it’s up to you to be an educated consumer. Next time your doctor prescribes a medication , whip out your list. If the drug is on the list, ask about other options.
Other questions to ask about medications:
If you have problems paying for the drug ask:
Remember: Never stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of drugs you’re taking and their dosages in your wallet or on your phone. That way, no matter what happens, you’ll be able to share that information with healthcare providers.